Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Dude, Where's My Mail?
I remember the old days, when I was growing up. We still had milk delivery in Saskatoon then, every Thursday, and it was a tradition my mother continued until milk delivery finally faded away almost entirely. She was probably one of the last few customers, too, her money left faithfully on a small stepstool right inside our front door, with a note for special orders (she didn't have to tell the milkman the usual order, as after 20 years he knew). I think of that time with nostalgia, because so many things have gone the way of the milkman. The world has changed, and we have moved on to convenience stores instead of milk delivery. And growing up one of the other traditions I remember is mail delivery.
Every day, at 10 am, like clockwork, the mail appeared. I loved getting mail back then, especially as I grew older and began to receive magazines and the occasional letter. It was a daily treat, I thought, a special moment when you opened the mailbox to reveal whatever new delights had landed there (and since I didn't pay the bills I could ignore those envelopes and leave them for the adults, who may have found mail delivery slightly less delightful).
My love of receiving mail has lasted over the years, from my years spent in Toronto through to northwestern Ontario - but it began to falter a bit here in Fort McMurray. You see mail isn't what it used to be, with bills taking up far more space than letters as individuals move to email, and flyers instead of invitations to events. And something else has changed - mail delivery.
I recently moved to a new house. I have learned in the last six weeks that I appear to receive mail twice weekly - one random day during the week, and on one weekend day. I am puzzled by this, but not surprised. Mail service just isn't what it once was, and I think that like milk delivery mail is dying - but unlike milk delivery I think it could be saved.
There are those of us who still like to get mail. In fact I prefer a letter to an email, and I still get a small thrill when I open my mailbox - but this thrill is dampened when I know that pieces of mail have gone missing, never to appear (like the CD of personal photos, sent twice by my photographer, that disappeared until the third time when he sent it registered mail). Parcels become far less exciting when you have to visit more than one postal outlet to collect them because the card stating which outlet the parcel is at isn't correct. And they become far less exciting when you appear at the time stated on the card to be told you will have to return because the parcel hasn't yet arrived there, despite what your little white card says.
I know that Canada Post struggles, especially in this area with competitive wages. I know that mail service is fading too, but as I said I think it can be saved - with intensive effort. I think when times get hard you need to find ways to get even better at what you do, working harder to be competitive and to provide stellar customer service. I am hesitant to even complain, as I know those who work at Canada Post work very hard, and I think the problem lies not with them but rather with an institution struggling to adjust to a brave new world, and still trying to function as it did during the days of milk delivery. I fear, though, that mail delivery will one day fade entirely, following milk delivery into the abyss of memory. My daughter was astonished to hear my stories of the milkman, and how you could have milk and cream and cottage cheese delivered to your door. One day I suspect she will tell her children about the old days of the mailman, and how these little envelopes with a stamp would appear in a little box at your front door. They will think it is very quaint and nostalgic, and may never know the joy of receiving a letter.
In the meantime, though, on many days I arrive home and pop up the flap on my mailbox, find it empty, and think "Dude, where's my mail?". One day if things do not change I imagine I won't even stop to open the box, because it will be forever empty, mail delivery having gone the way of milk delivery. And it will be a sad day in my world, too.